No Matter How Your Heart is Grieving, if You Keep on Believing…

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It’s hard to be a dreamer sometimes. It is both a blessing and a curse to feel everything so deeply. Even when I was a little girl, I would get lost in my daydreams and hopes for the future, only to be extremely disappointed to learn that, in fact, there was no such thing as Making Ponies Happy University. The crush of disappointment after a letdown is just as strong as the tingle of anticipation leading up to an event. My pillow was soaked with bitter tears many nights (both as a kid and an adult, I admit.)

Cinderella would have been my favorite Disney Princess when I was little had it not been for Pocahontas.  I fell in love with the Disney film when it was released in 1995, despite the horrifying historical inaccuracies. (I was only four. Give me a break.) All I knew was that Pocahontas was brave and strong, had an awesome raccoon sidekick, and great hair. Plus, John Smith was slightly more involved in her life than Prince Charming was in Cinderella’s. Did you know he only speaks a grand total of 47 words in the film? It’s true. I looked up the script to prove it.

Anyway, despite the disgust I felt toward Prince Charming, I still liked Cinderella, and not just because I would pretend to be her whenever I had chores to do around the house. A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes: this was my motto, and my little girl heart so innocently and completely trusted in her faithful refrain: “In dreams, you will lose your heartache: whatever you wish for, you keep.”

Pure poetry, I told myself, staring with wide-eyed adoration at the TV while hugging my Pocahontas doll.

As I grew older, I turned my attention to books and the magical worlds contained within them, particularly Anne of Green Gables. “Oh, it’s delightful to have ambitions,” Anne told me. “I’m so glad I have such a lot. And there never seems to be any end to them– that’s the best of it. Just as soon as you attain to one ambition you see another one glittering higher up still. It does make life so interesting.”

She’s completely right, I sighed dreamily, chin in my hand, as I stared out my bedroom window at a world of possibilities.

My dreams slowly evolved and changed as time went on. I gave up my dreams of being a “Ponytologist” when I was informed that it was a word that I had made up and no such job existed, and switched to my goal of being an actress. When my preteen years hit and I struggled with debilitating shyness, my goal became to be a surgeon. Wanting to someday be able to be home with my kids, I set my sights on being a journalist when my college years arrived. It was perfect: I could travel to the Middle East, write, and solve the world’s problems. Fast forward two and a half semesters of writing music advertisements and news articles of invented car crashes, and I switched my major to English faster than you could say, “Inverted pyramid.”

“Why are you changing your major? You’re one of the best students I’ve ever had,” my Media Writing professor mourned when I made my decision.

“Because I really, really, really hate writing this stuff,” I replied.

He blinked. “You do?”

“So much.”

“Oh. Well, if you ever change your mind….”

I compromised by getting a concentration in professional writing so that I could get back into journalism if I should ever want to, and turned my sights on grad school so I can teach someday.

Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will: “You’ll never amount to anything. You’ll never travel. You’ll never help anyone. You’ll never get accepted to University of Michigan; are you kidding? Do you know their acceptance rate?”

“No matter how your heart is grieving, if you keep on believing, the dreams that you wish will come true.” ~Cinderella

“It’s delightful when your imaginations come true, isn’t it?” ~Anne Shirley

“Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” ~Psalm 37:4

Don’t ever give up on your dreams.

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Dominican Republic Adventures

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I’m spoiled.

If you aren’t constantly smiling around the children, something’s wrong.

Let your hair down (literally) and you’ll instantly have three little girls braiding it.

There’s no such thing as giving too much love.

We’ve been blessed with more than we can comprehend, and we’re still not grateful. It’s sad.

People are incredibly kind and tolerant of your Spanish mistakes.

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They will always answer when you ask for the 117th time, “Como se dice….?”

However, if it has been seven attempts and you still cannot pronounce “bracelet,” correctly, the little girl on your lap will throw her hands up in exasperation.

The joy is incredible.

The love for Jesus is incredible.

The contentment is incredible.

You’ll pick up Spanish far faster than you ever thought possible, but you’ll also soon discover the language barrier you feared is broken down with hugs, smiles, and the love of Christ.

The Caribbean Sea is gorgeous.

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The poverty is heartbreaking.

There isn’t enough nail polish in the world to spread on little girl’s fingers and toes.

People here are unbelievably generous. You leave with gifts. They give whatever they have.

It’s one thing to read Jesus say, “Sell what you have and give to the poor”; it’s another thing entirely to experience firsthand why He said it.

A small loaf of bread is $3.

Your arms are full. Another child comes running, arms outstretched so you try to set the two down so the three can sit on your lap, and they instantly panic, afraid you’re setting them down for good. And your heart will break.

There’s basically no speed limit in the Dominican Republic.

Traffic lights and one way streets are basically suggestions.

You’ll never be loved by another human being as much as you are loved by DR orphans.

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Gas is nearly $7 American a gallon.

The friendly bus driver who speaks little English will still have his fun by pointing near your foot and saying, “Ay! Tarantula!” and then laugh his head off when you jump up in a panic.

I need to pray more.

Don’t try to fix everything (American mindset.) Love them.

You can’t comprehend how huge a problem sex trafficking is until you see with your own two eyes.

The deep faith young orphan girls possess will put your own to shame.

Don’t take antibiotics for granted. You’ll realize how spoiled we are with American medicine when you suddenly spike a fever and are delirious. Thankfully, you have a healing God and amazing team who will cover you in prayer.

Also, don’t take electricity for granted. And clean water…Basically, everything we DO take for granted.

Americans are rude! (First observation back in the States).
You’ll still think in Spanish for the first few hours after you’ve landed in the States.

They need so much more support than we give (emotionally, financially, physically, AND spiritually.)

You won’t leave unchanged.

The faces of all of those babies will never leave you.

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Hope

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Inspired by and dedicated to all victims of sex trafficking.

Esperanza used to be such a beautiful girl. She always wore a light pink dress with light pink ribbons, a sharp contrast against the dark hopelessness of the village. The Americans had brought it for her. Maybe someday they would take her away with them. Esperenza loved to tenderly care to a tiny kitten that had found its way into her hut, sick and nearly starved. She nursed it as best as her 5-year-old hands could, saving bits of her small piece of bread for the feline. When it grew stronger, she would rock it gently, humming. She so loved the rare moments her mother could do that for her. One day Esperenza carefully ripped a corner of her sheet to make a little makeshift dress for the kitten, who proudly strutted around the village sporting her new look. Esperanza, the tender-hearted.

Esperenza grew older. At the age of ten she was always running through the village, heedless of the rocks and sticks that cut into her bare feet. She always had a quick smile she would flash before she was off again, chasing a dream, a butterfly, sometimes even just her own whim. The boys challenged her to a race, tired of her constant running. She beat them….so they beat her. A bloody nose her trophy, Esperenza held it high in the air when she passed by them, walking slowly, and they clenched their fists. Oh, the humiliation of being bested by a girl. Once they could no longer see her, she took off running again. Old Mr. Carlos shook his fists together over his head in a celebratory manner when she flew by. No one could catch her. Esperenza, the wind chaser.

Esperenza grew older still. She didn’t run with the wind anymore. At 13, her steps were slowed by the weight of her soul. Her mother was sick and needed medicine they couldn’t afford. Esperenza moved out of the village to the city, to work selling necklaces to tourists…but then there was no more money to make necklaces, and certainly nothing to pay Esperenza. She couldn’t go home, so she began to beg for money on the street corners, sending whatever she received home. A man stopped her one day; was she hungry? Esperenza was. He offered her bread, and she eagerly took it, wolfing it down and wishing immediately for more. She grew confused when he demanded money for the food. Wasn’t it a gift? Oh, no, Esperenza; nothing is free. What was she to give him? She had no money. Esperenza, the innocent.

Esperenza grew up. She was in high demand because of her youth and beauty. Her tattered skirt hanging around her, Esperenza waited for the fifth man of the day, clutching her knees to her chest. She wanted to run again; she wanted someone to hold her, rocking her gently back and forth, wiping away her tears. And so, one day, she soared. He screamed her name; she never turned back. Chasing and fleeing simultaneously, she ran as though she could fly. Esperenza, the strong, graceful bird.

But even the most majestic birds get shot down.

Esperenza used to be such a beautiful girl.

A Learning Experience

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Last summer I went out of my comfort zone—about 7500 miles out of my comfort zone, to be exact. I went to the Dominican Republic. It was my first time out of the country (Canada doesn’t count!) and I wasn’t really sure what to expect. Armed and ready for several Instagram pictures of palm trees, I set out.

I had no idea how much it would change my life.

I ministered to love-starved orphans and formerly abused children now in foster care. I cried with women who had been victims of sex trafficking and other abuse. I talked in broken Spanish at different villages to a variety of people whose joy put me to shame. I held three crying babies at once and wished I had more arms. I close my eyes and it’s like I’m back there again; I hear the excited chattering that I can only partially understand because my Spanish is pathetic at best; I feel the desperate crowding as children fight to be one of the ones who receive a hug, or the one who gets to hold my hand and lead me through the village, proudly showing me the hut that is their home. I can feel the panicked arms tightening around my neck when it’s time for me to leave the orphanage. I see the dark eyes pleading for one more hug, one more caress, one more, “te amo, bonita.” And I open my wet eyes and realize just how much I miss them.

I absolutely love being in college. I’ve learned a lot in the four years I’ve been working towards my finishing my undergrad, but I don’t think learning happens strictly in a classroom listening to a lecture. (I’m a former homeschooler. It’s in our blood to feel that way.)

I like having experiences that teach me, and I like writing about those experiences. I like when I read a book that makes me think. I can’t stand fluff literature. I very much believe in constantly learning and growing, and I like when my literature, whether it’s what I’m reading or what I’m writing, helps me to do so. I’m always looking for life lessons in everything. (It can get pretty annoying of me, actually.) Still, my writing almost always has a significant meaning deeper than the surface level. The project I’m working on for my senior seminar class is no exception. I’m really excited about it. I’m writing about what I’ve learned from the ruthless teacher named Life and I’m looking forward to sharing it. I’m doing a lot of research and a lot of reading, but that’s not all that’s necessary to learn.

Learning doesn’t stop when you’re out of the classroom. Sometimes, in fact, that’s when it can begin.

Here’s to adventures!